My At Home Physical

It’s time to renew my life insurance.  Gotta have it, but there is nothing fun about the process.

I have a physical every single year where they poke and prod me, why, why is it necessary for the insurance company to repeat the process?  I sign a form releasing my medical records to them.  But they insist on coming to my house to inflict more pain.

Last week, a little old lady strolled up my driveway at 9 AM.  She works for a company that makes house calls.  It’s like Grub Hub but for bodily fluids.

The woman told me she was a retired nurse and took this on as a part time job just for fun.  She had white hair and a suitcase full of syringes and vials.  She asked me six hundred questions, that I’d already answered online, and then asked if I wanted to pee first or have my blood drawn.

I freak out at the sight of needles, and blood, so I chose to get that out of the way. 

“Can you please take it from my hand?  My arm veins like needles less than the rest of me.”

Phlebotomists don’t like hands. 

“It’ll hurt worse that way,” she scolded.

“I’ve been told that before.  But the idea of a hunking piece of medal shoved up the crease of my arm makes me pass out so the hand it will be.”

“Suit yourself.”

I turned on the TV for a distraction.

It didn’t hurt.  It never does.  It’s just the thought of it.  Blood is supposed to be INSIDE you.  Just like your spleen.  I don’t want to see it.

She then gave me a cup and told me to fill it.  At the doctor, you pee in a small container and leave it in a little metal cabinet where it magically disappears.  I had to bring this one back out and hand it to her like I was serving a cup of tea.

“Would you like a sugar cub or dash of cream?”

She didn’t finish it.  I had to pour the leftovers back down the toilet.  I felt like she’d seen a very private part of me.

My home nurse then informed me she had to perform an EKG and told me to remove my shirt.  She lay me on the couch.  Sadly, that day I’d hire men to replace a significant portion of my roof.  As she stood over me, her hands on my bare chest, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the roofers walk by my back windows.  We made eye contact.  He quickly walked away.

I could only imagine what he was thinking.  I’m grateful she didn’t check my prostate. 

The Vice President

I recently watched a documentary on Prime Video called The Antidote.  It’s about kindness.  Now is probably a good time for all of us to consider that word:  kindness.

Kindness really isn’t about being nice to people you like, it is more active than being polite.  It takes action and perhaps action with people you don’t have that much in common with. 

The Antidote follows several stories of people and organizations that are truly working to serve others.  Two of the stories jumped out at me.

The first is Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, a medical clinic that serves people who live in abject poverty.  The staff walk the streets of Boston finding homeless folks who need medical care.  When they take these people to their clinic, the first thing the medical staff do is wash the patients’ feet.  They actually remove their often damp socks and shoes, get on their knees and soak and WASH their feet.  They say that this act, physically kneeling before these people, changes the dynamics – building trust.

I don’t even like to touch my own feet, much less the feet of someone I don’t know!  Imagine how meaningful that could be to someone who is often overlooked, ignored, or looked down upon.

The other vignette that stood out to me was of a community that has fully embraced people with disabilities.  The Center for Discovery in Sullivan County, NY, provides care for adults and children with the most complex medical disabilities.  One of the participants in the program shares her experience.  She says, “They are listening to what I have to say.”  She then describes a group of about eight friends who convene weekly at the Pickled Owl restaurant.  They call themselves the Self Advocacy Group.  This participant proudly boast:  “I am the Vice President (of the group).”  She is so proud.

I was touched by how simple it is to make someone feel relevant and loved.  Listening – making people feel heard.  It’s not that hard.  And don’t we all want to be the Vice President of something? 

Years ago I was the Sargent at Arms of my 7 AM rotary club.  I hated the early meetings, but dang, I was THE Sargent at Arms!  I bet there aren’t that many people who can boast that they have held that position.

I’m wondering how I, how we, can give more people the opportunity to be the Vice President… of something.  It just can’t be that hard.

Stamps and Memories

This is weird.  Maybe a bit morose.

Several years ago on a Sunday morning at church, the preacher that day mentioned several folks in our church who had passed away.  As he spoke, I began to write down names of people I know who have died.  I keep the list in my nightstand.  I add to it when someone who has meant something to me at some point in my life passes away.

Everyone on the list has influenced my life in some way.  Most in a positive way.  Some have made me stronger.  Some were significant to me.  Some were acquaintances – like Jamille,  a young woman who worked at the front desk of the Cary Y when I was the director there.  She had significant health problems here entire life that she eventually succumbed to – but the years she had on this earth were spent abundantly sharing joy. Always a smile, an eager greeting. You would never of known of the physical pain inside.

Mr. Gardner was an old man in the church I grew up in. He and his wife never had kids so he invested in my like I was his own.  He gave me a stamp collection book and a couple of times a year helped me place the unique ones he selected on the correct page.  I think my dad tossed that book in a move twenty years ago.  I bet it was worth millions.

I went to high school with Alice.  She was THE COOLEST girl at Terry Sanford.  She also went to my church.  She made me feel special because I was a nerd but that never stopped her from walking down the hall with me or hanging out at ten minute break.

The older I get the longer the list becomes.  When I add a name, I glance through and the memories pour. 

If you believe in heaven, and if you consider all those who are already there, it gives great comfort.  I imagine they are all having a time of it waiting on us.  They inspired me on this earth and I anticipate they will greet me in the beyond, maybe with a heavenly stamp collection.

The Beast

It is as tall as me, less limber (and it is hard to be less limber than I), wider, heavier and more substantial.  This massive armoire was, I believe, Lisa’s first furniture purchase out of college.  For her, it held a TV – likely a thick, knobbed booger with no remote.  For DJ, our hope was it could hold her 600 sweatshirts and sweaters in her new bedroom in her new brownstone in DC.

Let me clarify.  The bedroom is not new and neither is the house.  It was actually built in 1890, 47 years before my eighty-three year-old parents were born.  When DJ decided to move in with friends and toured the place, it was evident that although the overall place was significantly larger than her current apartment, the bedroom was smaller, and the slanted closet might hold 15% of her wardrobe. 

The armoire was in our basement, and I’m currently looking to purge, so it made sense to relocate the Beast.  Little did I know.

DJ wondered if I’d consider painting it.  Of course, for a daughter of mine, the answer was yes.  My incredible fiancé, Julie, jumped in.  She is a really good sport and loves our kids too.

We purchased what’s called chalk paint, removed the doors and knobs, drug the dang thing to the carport and painted… and painted… and painted.  Three stinkin’ coats.  And then, each morning for a week, I’d rise early to put on a coat of shellac before work.  With rain coming, Michelle begrudgingly helped me shove the beast back into the basement one Tuesday afternoon several weeks into the project.  I propped the doors on a ledge.  Two days later one fell and the paint chipped in four spots. 

“$%^%&^^%%.”

I repainted the door three times and again, awoke to shellac.  Shellac, shellac, shellac.  I HATE shellac.  My nostrils hurt from shellac.

With great might, we lay the beast down in the Budget rent a truck and drove her to DC. 

When we arrived, it was discovered that DJ’s bedroom was on the third floor of this new, err old, home.  A human with slightly large bones or a couple of extra lbs on the hips would struggle to fit up the two 19 step stairwells and could hardly make the 340 degree angle at the top into the bannistered hallway.  I had no idea how we might get this enormous piece of furniture from floor one to floor three, especially with the muscle group I had assembled:  Julie, DJ and Michelle.  A boy was called over.  He was skinny.

When I discovered that one of DJ’s roommates had movers bringing in her belongings (I won’t even go there but seriously who gets movers for a 23-year-old? They simply can’t have that much stuff yet.), I devised a plan.

As they pulled up, I had the clan of five drag the beast to the bottom of the steps.  As the Mayflower men walked in, we were strategically on about step 14 between floors one and two.  The two gentlemen, picture the Rock, ran to our rescue.  We attempted to help, but they scoffed at us.  Within seconds the Beast was resting peacefully in DJ’s bedroom ready to be filled with fleece and wool. I tipped them $40 which was the best money I’ve spent in years.

When the time comes to move again, the Beast will again be relocated.  But next time, perhaps in little pieces and perhaps to the landfill.

License to Fill

(The youngest Tanner, Michelle, is a sophomore in high school and is taking a creative writing class.  Her latest assignment was to create a blog.  Michelle’s blog’s theme is being the youngest of three girls.  This is her most recent post. Oh, and I did have permission to publish!)

Lucy graduation

She’s the one in red

By Michelle Tanner

Recently, I got my driver’s license. You may be asking yourself, “Michelle. What does this have to do with being the youngest child or growing up in a weird family?” My answer to you is A LOT.

Up to November 27th, 2018, I was the queen of the carpool system. I was constantly asking my dad or sisters to drop me off at the movie theater, library, etc. I often received an eye-roll in return. While I was thankful for the ride, I will admit, it was sometimes embarrassing.

Last year at my school dance, my friends and I got ready at my house, and our dates came over after we primped ourselves. The before is always awkward. Taking pictures with a boy from your middle school that you rarely talk to throughout the year is not the ideal situation… Anyway, after pictures, we all piled into one car with my dad as our chauffeur. I had faced the fact that this was the only way to get to the dance. I’m sure you can picture my dad, like any other father, playing his old tunes and asking questions to fill the silence. It’s such a relief to know that this year I will be able to avoid this situation.

For the readers who don’t know how a driver’s permit works, you have to practice driving for a year and log sixty hours of driving with your parent. That meant that every trip to the grocery store was another stressful experience filled with corrections from my worried dad. One day, I drove my sisters and dad home from a movie. I gracefully pulled out of the parking spot, put the car in drive, and began to take off. I planned to slow down so that I could turn out of the parking lot, but instead I mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal and jerked forward. I quickly corrected myself. Everyone began to yell at me! In my defense it was the early stages of my driving career. I was mortified, and my sisters are still scared to get in the car with me.

It was unbelievable to me that my sisters could be so judgmental. They were in the same place I was just a few years ago! One of my favorite stories is about a fifteen-year-old, too cool for school DJ Tanner, my oldest sister. After a long, treacherous trip to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to visit my grandparents (when I say long and treacherous, I mean an hour long drive with a new driver on the highway), my dad corrected how DJ was holding the steering wheel. I believe the conversation went something like this…

Dad: “DJ, you’re supposed to hold the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock! Why are your elbows slouching?”

DJ: “DAD! I HAVE BEEN DRIVING A WHOLE HOUR! MY ARMS ARE TIRED! GIVE ME A BREAK!”

How could she possibly make fun of my little mess up?

Now that I have my license, life is good. I have all of the freedom and responsibility in the world—I take that back. Don’t get me wrong, the freedom is great, but the responsibility is different. I have an issue with getting gas. My biggest fear is that I’ll put the wrong type of gas in my car, and it will explode. The first time I got gas, I called my sister, Stephanie, to have her lead me through the process step-by-step. I got my gas, and all was good.

All was good, until yesterday, when my “low fuel” light came on. I decided I had to face my fear, so I went to the nearest gas station prepared to leave with no worry of breaking down on the side of the road. I pulled up to the Shell gas station down the street and stopped at the closest hose to find out that my gas tank was on the other side of the car. “No problem!” I thought to myself as I pulled around to the next open spot. I pulled around, and I even shooed the friendly man working there sweeping and got an annoyed look. I felt bad, but I just knew I had to get gas no matter what. I got out of the car going over the steps in my head, “First, put in my card, then type in my 5-digit zip code…”

Turns out, I parked on the wrong side again. At that point the other gas hoses were taken and there was no more room for me to make a 7-point turn especially with my mediocre driving skills. I left the gas station defeated, but in order to get home, I would have had to make a U-turn on a busy street. There was no way I was doing something that risky, so I went through the shopping center next door where I struggled to figure out a 3 way stop with unspecified rules. I received a few glares and nearly got honked at. I was finally on my way home. But as I drove, the orange “low-fuel” light mocked me.

I turned my car around and went back to the same gas station. I drove in, parked on the right side, and I got my gas! Victory was mine, despite a concerned look from the not so friendly gas station man that recognized me from earlier. At that point I didn’t care about the glares and stares because I knew that I wouldn’t have to get gas for at least another two to three weeks.

Today as I drove my car to pick up a friend, I looked at my gas meter all the way up to the top. I felt accomplished. I felt like an adult with real responsibility that I could handle on my own. It’s funny how such a little thing made me forget I was the baby of the family for a split second.

 

Words, A Generous Gift

bathroom pic

Lisa did a good thing right before she died.  She wrote a very simple card to me telling me she loved me and that I had done all that I could for her.  She essentially said, “No guilt Danny.  No guilt.”  She told me to move forward in my life – to remarry.  Her exact words were, “You’re not good by yourself.”  Yeah.  She knew.

What a generous things for her to do.  Selfless.  Not surprising.

I have no guilt.  I have no angst about moving forward with my girlfriend, Julie.  I don’t know if I would have without the final check off, mybe so.  But it surely is nice not to question.

In a way, those who know they are going to die have an advantage.  If they choose, they can get their affairs straight.  They can share how much they love their friends and family.  They can help alleviate any feelings of guilt.  They can plan with their loved ones.

One would think that someone like me would fully be prepared to die.  I’m not scared to die, sometimes it is actually more scary to live in this world than to ponder death.  But I don’t think I’ve done a great job of planning for what could come.

Do my kids know that I absolutely adore them?  And not in a general sort of I love you way.  Do they know why I love them, individually?  Do they know what I think is most wonderful about each of them?

At some point over the past year or two, my parents wrote a letter to me just to let me know they are proud of me.  It’s framed in my bathroom (my favorite room in the house).

Do those I work with understand their importance in my life?  How they’ve stretched me and made me grow?

Am I vocal enough with Julie about my feelings for her?  Danny Tanner is not always easy to love.  I come with a lot.  I am thankful she’s in for the long haul.

Have I thoughtfully thanked all those who stood by me in my darkest times?  The ones who tossed my up on their shoulders and carried me when I couldn’t walk myself.

Oh, they’ll get their reward in heaven, but wouldn’t it be nice if I took the time now to let them know that I haven’t forgotten – that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

I hope I don’t die tomorrow.  I am not prepared.

 

No Purex for Them

They came home today.  The two oldest, DJ and Stephanie, returned from ten weeks away working at summer camp.

Not only did they come home, their clothes came home.  14 loads thus far – and counting.

I’m used to the laundry.  I kinda like it.  It signals the end of summer and a return to normalcy.

And yet, I am perplexed.

There was a laundry facility at camp for staff.  I know for sure that my girls used the washer and dryer provided for two reasons:

Frist, they told me.

Second, I unpacked Tide from both of their laundry bags.

Yes.  TIDE!  As in Tide’s in, dirt’s out.

How is it that my kids are using Tide and I am washing with Purex?  Not that there’s anything wrong with Purex, but man, would I like to smell like Tide when I walk down the halls at work.  But no, my ongoing cost savings strategy requires that I settle for the least expensive suds on the shelf.  And yet, my kids don’t!  And the worst part of it is, they charge THEIR Tide to MY credit card!!

I’m smelling like 13 cents a wash, and they’re walking around with a $.78 cent aroma.

It does not make sense.  The dad should be the one splurging.  They are not even 21 years old.  They don’t have steady employment.  I fill up their cars with gas.  I use generic toilet paper so I can afford their school tuition (and sometimes it hurts).  But they are ordering sodas with their dinners (while I drink water), Ubering (while I walk), and washing their clothes with Top-Shelf detergent.

I bet the college dorm room has Charmin!

Geeze.  I wish I was my child.  I’d live a more lucrative life!

 

The Kid Sabbatical

They left me.  Yep.  All three of my girls trekked down to Camp Seafarer for a full five weeks.  Today I pick up Michelle, and I am so, so happy.

When Lisa died seven years ago, in addition to drowning in grief, I developed a fear of being alone.  The thought of staying in our house without other human beings consumed me.  I worked to stagger kid sleepovers so that all wouldn’t be gone at once.  I did the same with overnight camp, picking one up before sending the next.  I was paralyzed by the mere thought of quiet.

When I turned 50, I assumed I was complete.  I am happy, understand my strengths and limitations and am comfortable with who I have become.  What I didn’t expect was more self-growth.  I thought my insides were pretty set – sort of like the gray hair – there was no reversing what had developed; it is what it is.

What I have discovered over the past month is that, even as an aging dude, I’m ever changing, ever growing, ever maturing.  Yeah, I have REALLY missed my kids over the past 36 days (not that I was counting) but this time apart has allotted me time to rejuvenate and to focus on areas of my life that I’ve somewhat neglected.

This past month I’ve been able to focus on my relationship with my girlfriend, Julie.  she doesn’t live in Raleigh so the ability to head to Charlotte or on vacation together has given us the chance to pull back the curtain a bit.  I’ve discovered she’s cooler than I had imagined.  And best of all, after getting to know me even more, she’s still taking my calls!

I’ve exercised, slept hard, read and watched my backlog of DVR’d CBS Sunday Morning shows (man am I old).  I’ve eaten dinner with a number of my buddies, visited my parents twice, and I even got a massage.

I’ve surprised myself this year.  Even at AARP age, there’s still hope to tweak my many imperfections and to face down my fears.  It isn’t over!

I have a long way to go, but it’s nice to know it’s not too late for improvement.

Longing for Gray

Tampon

I raise money for a living.  I work at a large YMCA in the development office.  Currently we are working on a $117,000,000 campaign which will allows us to build five new YMCAs, renovate several existing Ys and camps, send tens of thousands of children to programs who otherwise could not afford to attend and grow our endowment.  Most people don’t like to ask folks for money.  I got over that about a decade ago.  I just really believe in the work that we do.

I often drive prospective donors around in my car to take them to programs or show them construction sites.  I drive a 2007 Acura MDX.  It’s a nice car that I’ve kept well maintained.  But it is old.  Each time I have an appointment, I try to remember to tidy up my vehicle wanting to make a good impression.

Recently, I pulled up to our downtown Y facility to pick up a couple I had never met.  They were older, a bit reserved.  I had forgotten to tidy.

I opened the car door for the wife and as she climbed in the back of my car, I noticed a number of tampons, in very colorful wrapping, dispersed across the seat and floor.

I dived in before her explaining my situation: “I am a widower and have three teenage daughters…” who apparently want me to get fired!

It used to be Cherrios I’d find strewn about my vehicle.  My how times change.

I don’t get this.  Do they just grab a handful and dash out of the house as if they’re taking mints from the checkout counter at Denny’s?  What good are they to them in the car floor?  Why not in a backpack or purse?

Why are they packaged in the most vivid colors available?  Neon green, yellow and pink.  You can’t miss them.  They glow in the dark.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked to hold a stash in my pocket at an event.  I’ve reached for my keys before and had a tampon explosion – dropping them on the floor and having to scurry around to clean up my mess.  At least they’re easy to find.

 

 

I wish women had pockets.  I wish cars had built in hygiene storage compartments.  I wish tampons came in plain, gray packages.

The Gut

A dear friend of mine just resigned from the YMCA where we have worked together for thirty years.  She got an awesome opportunity to work with a former co-worker at the Y in Richmond.  Her kids are both in college, and it just seemed like a great opportunity for her to start anew.  She basically lived in Raleigh her entire life and most of her career, although in different positions, has been in one organization.  Gutsy move.

Big decisions are daunting for me.  I play out scenario after scenario – what if…

I recently went through a significant one with Michelle on high school choice.  That one was not mine to make, but I did hold some responsibility for coaching.

Stephanie is beginning to ponder colleges.  Another biggie.  Where you go to college will set the compass for the rest of your life:  where you live, your future spouse, your kids – all of those things ride on ONE significant decision.

Through the years, I’ve had opportunities to apply for other jobs similar to my friend.  I’ve considered selling my house and downsizing.  Occasionally I get the bug to pick up and leave the comfort of Raleigh, where I’ve spent the past 33 years, just to try something new.  But my roots are so very deep.

I have another friend who has had job after job.  She has lived in at least four cities in North Carolina, in Minnesota, and Colorado.  She has gone to various higher education institutions to chase her dreams.  And, she has always made new friends and adapted well.

I once saw a movie called Sliding Door.  The movie highlights Helen’s life.  She gets fired from her job and heads to the subway for home.  In one scenario, she catches the train and finds her boyfriend cheating on her in their apartment.  In another scenario, she misses the train and has no idea what he did.  The movie follows these two parallel lives.  And the outcome at the end is remarkably different, simply because of one train ride.

I suppose the lesson here is that any decision we make, big or small, can drastically change the course of our lives.  Lisa’s sister met her husband at a bar one night years ago.  Had she stayed at home to watch Grey’s Anatomy, who knows?

I asked my friend how she decided to make the move – what pushed her to jump.  Her reply?  “My gut.”

She simply felt it was the right thing to do at the right time.

Although I’m not happy with her for leaving, I’m pretty sure she’s made the right decision.  A little prayer and the following of your “gut” can lead you to some pretty incredible things.

 

 

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